When people hear the word “bacteria,” they automatically think of germs and sickness. However, our body functions properly because of bacteria. Our gut is actually made up of millions and millions of bacterial microorganisms. In order to keep the balance between the good and bad bacteria, consumption of probiotics and prebiotics are suggested by health professionals. Luckily, probiotic foods and beverages are trending, and consumption is on the rise. According to Transparency Market Research, probiotic functional foods had a retail sales value of 29.49 billion U.S. dollars in 2013 on a global scale and has only continued to rise.
In our intestines there is a great need to to balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria. “Good” bacteria or probiotics aid in altering the microflora of the gut. Probiotics help with digestion, and prevent harmful bacteria from flourishing. Probiotics prevent diarrhea and may help those with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Some of these beneficial microorganisms include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Foods that include probiotics-
Yogurts with Live Active Cultures
Non-digestible carbohydrates that travel through the digestive pathway and feed probiotics are called prebiotics. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of probiotics in the gut thus inducing health improvements. Some prebiotics include polydextrose, arabinogalactan, and fructo-oligosachacarides (plant sugars).
Foods that include prebiotics-
Greens (spinach, kale, & dandelion greens)
Legumes (lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.)
The combination of probiotics and prebiotics are called synbiotics. When taken together prebiotics will work more easily to enhance probiotic effects. You can make your own synbiotics by combining any of the probiotics and prebiotics above (ex: bananas and live active cultured yogurt).
If and when considering taking probiotics remember not all products have the same strains of bacteria, therefore not all may have the same effects. Consult your physician prior to taking probiotics, especially if nursing/pregnant.